In the US from time to time people have entertained the idea of connecting the East and the West with a great canal over the Rockies. This idea flies right well on April Fools Day.

Well, long ago, about 1200 years ago, a similar idea came to flower in Europe. Fortunately the Rockies were somewhere else and all they had to do was bridge the two kilometer separation between the Altmühl River and a tributary of the Main River. Then commerce could flow between all those folks living along the Danube, which flows into the Black Sea, who wanted to buy and sell goodies to all those Nordic types living along the Main/Rhine Rivers, which flow into the Atlantic Ocean.

Along came Charlemagne at the right time, in the year 793. Employing thousands of workmen, he got just such a canal working. At least for about 30 years. Then he up and died. His successor son, so jealous of his famous father, allowed the canal to go out of business and most records altered or destroyed. We sleuths, Suzi and I, were determined to see for ourselves what remains of poor Charlemagne’s project. We expected to see faint earthen cuts in the hillsides and maybe the remains of the associated reservoirs that helped manage water flow. We got more than we bargained for.

First we took a side road off an autobahn, then a side road off the side road, etc. until we were really out in the sticks. We found the hamlet of Graben and knew we were near, expecting to polish our spectacles to better find faint traces of the past. But no, the Germans had done all the work for us. Clear road signs pointed the way, not just to a few faint clues, but directly to the well preserved canal and a fine museum to explain all the workings.

Unfortunately, the museum is closed in the winter, but ample explanation was given (in German, of course) on signage, as I will show. We had a great time imagining how commerce must have flowed through these parts from near and far.

Another attempt to connect the continent was not made for one thousand years, the present great Rhine-Main/Danube Canal.

We find a part of the canal.

We find a part of the canal.

A nicely marked route.

A nicely marked route.

A convenient WC

A convenient WC

Suzi walks down to the water's edge.

Suzi walks down to the water’s edge.

Former route of the water course, right through the heart of the tiny village.

Former route of the water course, right through the heart of the tiny village.

The museum, closed for the winter

The museum, closed for the winter

One of nine explanatory panels of who, what and why. Germans don't run around uninformed about their history and culture.

One of nine explanatory panels of who, what and why. Germans don’t run around uninformed about their history and culture.

There are millions of tidbits of history we could explore in this vast country. It’s kinda fun to latch onto a few and gnaw on them a bit.

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